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OldClicker article: Hummingbird Studio

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Post Options Post Options   Quote rovhazman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: OldClicker article: Hummingbird Studio
    Posted: 29 September 2013 at 01:57
Those of you who follow the Birds themed view probably remember the amazing Hummingbird photos by OldClicker. I asked him to write a Knowledge Base article about his setup and he kindly agreed.

See below OldClicker's article. A great read, even if you don't plan to use that setup...

Thanks, Terry!

Originally posted by OldClicker OldClicker wrote:

The Hummingbird Studio

This article is an explanation of my technique for capturing hummingbirds with an outside studio. The studio is a work in progress that I have been working on for a few years. I am looking forward to comments and suggestions for improvement.

All of the birds images are taken with them near or eating from a feeding tube that drips sugar water from a medical IV drip bag hanging nearby. In the early studio days, I used a tiny tube that I placed inside the flower and filled with an eye dropper after every visit - tedious. I now try to hide the tube in the flower sometimes, but generally I just get images of the birds and then a bunch of flower images in the same position and make composites. Here is an image where you can see the yellow plastic flower on the end of the feed tube. I would have to do some cloning to remove or disguise the plastic if I were to use this.



I'm currently using an A77 but have used an A350, A700 and A900 in the past. I feel that the quieter A77 gives some advantage. The Live View flip out screens of the A350 and A77 definitely make the set up easier.

The above image was taken with a Minolta 100 f/2.8 Macro lens. This lens is excellent, but I have used the Minolta 200 f/2.8 the Sony 70-400 G with equal success. The 70-400 near the long end gives some advantage in that the background is smaller. Since the BG is a small print out, it can be a little farther away giving less chance for shadows from the subjects.

My experimentation with camera settings and exposure has led me to a system using near zero ambient light – 100% flash. For my last batch this summer, I used ISO= 100, 1/250 sec SS (sync speed) and f/5.6 - f/16 to remove all or almost all of the ambient light. I have also used ND filters if necessary on sunny days. (BTW - The EVF is great for this because I can still see the scene even though the image would be near black.) The flashes are four Sony F42s connected with the Sony/Minolta flash cords. (I have tried other flash methods - see below.) I use a preset manual focus set by placing a fake butterfly in the position where I want to capture the bird.

This summer I started using automatic laser triggers. These result in 10 times the number of images because they are there and ready at all times. In the past I just used a cheap eBay radio remote shutter. Still, they don’t always cooperate.



Here is an image of the all-out studio complete with laser triggers, backdrop, drip tube and drip bag. You can also see my bucket of cut flowers that I use and the fake butterfly that I put where I expect the bird to be for focusing and trigger alignment. (For a quicker set up, I use a remote release instead of the triggers.) The BG is simply an out of focus image of a nearby tree printed on regular inkjet paper (photo paper reflects too much).



The laser triggers are part of Bryan Mumford’s ‘Time Machine’ system: http://www.bmumford.com/photo/.   I use one ‘Laser Sensor’ and one ‘Laser Sensor for Crossed Beams’. This allows me to trigger only when both beams are broken right where they cross.

Flash experience: My first off camera flash used the Sony/Minolta optical IR system. It works great as far as firing the flashes in a set up like this - even in full sun. The problem was that the hummingbirds are quick enough that they have already reacted to the pre-flash by the time the image is taken. All of the images showed them turned as they started to fly away and their wing speed increases dramatically making them very hard to 'stop'. Here is a typical image with the bird reacting.



I then tried the cheap eBay radio triggers. Again they work fine for most situations, but they are not in perfect sync. With the fast wings (about 60 times per second when just hovering) I could see a different wing position for each of the flashes. Here is an image using the eBay triggers and four F42s. Note that you can see a wing position for each of the flashes.



The Minolta/Sony flash cords have solved all of the problems except for having all of the wires.

Here are a few of the images I have captured with this system. The first was with an older non-auto trigger set up.



The second was shot with the flower in place and the feeder tube cloned out.



And two more that are composites with the bird and flowers coming from separate images.





As you can see, it's quite an operation. Someone suggested that I consider giving a workshop, but I don't see many photographers willing to go to these extremes. The real bird lovers would balk at the non-reality of it all and non-birders just wouldn't think that it was worth it. Only the actual hummingbird lovers can see value and we are few.

Terry


Edited by brettania - 29 September 2013 at 05:35
 



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mambo View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote mambo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 September 2013 at 02:45
Amazing shots and very informative read. Thanks for sharing.




Regards


Charles
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Photosopher Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 September 2013 at 03:47
Wonderful OldClicker. So thorough and top shelf pro all around. Quite amazing!

Thank you.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Alex H Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 September 2013 at 08:35
Thanks from me too! I used to shoot hummingbirds a lot when I lived in California, but not any longer
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Post Options Post Options   Quote tpetpe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 September 2013 at 09:45
Very nice, your setup would also be very good for insects in flight. You could move it into a field, near a bee hive or near to some suitable bait and get some unique results.

Best

Tim
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rickztahone Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 September 2013 at 16:22
A very enjoyable read. Thank you for adding the information about the laser triggers! I didn't know such a thing was available. Now I know
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Maxxuman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 September 2013 at 16:36
A lot of great info there, and it's a setup with many elements I wouldn't have thought of. While hummers rarely come our way there's still a lot to learn from your approach, so thanks to OldClicker and to Henry for sharing it!

And a suggestion - perhaps some splashes of color in your backdrop may help, such as those you'd get from red or yellow flowers in some gardens.

Edited by Maxxuman - 29 September 2013 at 16:42
Barry
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Post Options Post Options   Quote OldClicker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 September 2013 at 23:01
Originally posted by tpetpe tpetpe wrote:

Very nice, your setup would also be very good for insects in flight. You could move it into a field, near a bee hive or near to some suitable bait and get some unique results.

Best

Tim


I did accidently catch one insect; one that also likes nectar.




Terry
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Post Options Post Options   Quote jcoffin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 September 2013 at 23:50
Originally posted by OldClicker OldClicker wrote:


I did accidently catch one insect; one that also likes nectar.

[ ... ]

Terry


That's a very nice shot Terry! (or else I'm just easily impressed -- but I'm definitely impressed).
    Later,

    Jerry.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kirby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2013 at 01:01
I learned things! Many thanks for sharing this information (and presenting it so well).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JS5 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2013 at 04:10
Precious information and experience... Thanks for sharing....
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Micholand Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 October 2013 at 12:53
Thanks OldClicker, a very clearly written and illustrated contribution...
/Michael

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